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Patient Narrative A Dominant Source of Quality Information for Patients Study Finds

For two decades, various initiatives have encouraged Americans to consider quality when choosing clinicians, both to enhance informed choice and to reduce disparities in access to high-quality providers. The literature portrays these efforts as largely ineffective. But this depiction overlooks two factors: the dramatic expansion since 2010 in the availability of patients’ narratives about care and the growth of information seeking among consumers. A study published in Health Affairs sought to assess the impact of these changes on consumers’ awareness of quality information and sociodemographic differences. Researchers used surveys fielded in 2010, 2014, and 2015 to assess the impact of these changes. Public exposure to any quality information doubled between 2010 and 2015, while exposure to patient narratives and experience surveys tripled. Reflecting a greater propensity to seek quality metrics, minority consumers remained better informed than whites over time, albeit with differences across subgroups in the types of information encountered. An education-related gradient in quality awareness also emerged over the past decade. Researchers conclude public policy should respond to emerging trends in information exposure, establish standards for rigorous elicitation of narratives, and assist consumers’ learning from a combination of narratives and quantified metrics on clinician quality.

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